A group of parents is trying to spread the word and push through legislation to bring more attention to dyslexia in Iowa schools. Katie Greving of Urbandale is a spokesperson for the group “Decoding Dyslexia” which formed in June of last year.
Greving says the Iowa group is an offshoot of a movement that got started in New Jersey. “They successfully coordinated a grassroots effort among parents in their state, and successfully passed legislation in New Jersey. And after they did that, all sorts of Decoding Dyslexia chapters sprung up around the country,” Greving says.
Greving says they started out small and now have 600 members. She says one-in-five children are dyslexic and it’s hereditary, so if the parents have dyslexia, there’s a 50-percent chance a child may also have it. Several members of Greving’s family have dyslexia and she joined the group to help try and educate people on what dyslexia is. “The common myths that we hear are that dyslexics see things backwards, they write things backwards,” Greving says. “And while it is true that some people with dyslexia reverse numbers — they don’t actually see them backwards. They tend to have difficulty naming objects — so they might see the letter B and say ‘oh that’s a D’ and confuse the name.”
Greving says it’s more than mixing up a few letters. “Dyslexia is a brain-based problem with reading, writing and spelling. And basically, certain pathways and areas of the brain that need to be lighting up to help people become fluent readers, fluent spellers — they aren’t doing that with dyslexic people — because their brain is organized differently,” Greving explains. She says dyslexics have a lot of talents that can come out if they get help overcoming the difficulties with reading and spelling.
Dyslexia can be diagnosed as early as kindergarten, but Greving says less than 30-percent of dyslexic children are ever diagnosed. “Our schools right now are not really allowed to use the word dyslexia. Iowa is what’s called a ‘non-categorical state’ regarding special education. It basically means that schools don’t use any diagnostic terms,” Greving says. “And there are definitely some strengths to that — but unfortunately when our kids get diagnosed with dyslexia it really means nothing in the schools — and it needs to.”
Decoding Dyslexia is pushing a bill in the legislature that would legally recognize the definition of dyslexia. And it also asks for funding for programs to help students. “There has been no disagreement among experts about what kinds of reading programs dyslexics need. And all of our parents right now have to pay for those programs privately — usually at the rate of about 30 to 60 dollars-an-hour for a tutor twice a week,” Greving says. “And what we want to do, is we get these kids screened in kindergarten and first grade before they fall behind. And then funnel them into these reading programs that all the experts agree work for dyslexic kids.”
Greving says the funding aspect of the legislation had been the stumbling block thus far. For more information on Decoding Dyslexia Iowa, search for their page on Facebook.